RFP outlines criteria for possible merger

Published 4:14 am Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Staff Writer

Beaufort Regional Health System is seeking a partner that will help it meet at least $14.2 million in future construction needs, among other things.
Those other things include bringing doctors to the community, providing jobs for its employees and meeting the health-care needs of people in eastern North Carolina, including those who cannot pay for that care.
That’s the message in the draft of a 1 1/2-inch thick document, called a request for proposal, that is under review by the BRHS Board of Commissioners and members of the area’s medical community.
It is scheduled to be discussed — and possibly approved — at a meeting of the BRHS commissioners tonight.
Once approved, it will be sent to the 10 entities that have indicated an interest in receiving it. The document will form the basis for discussion about any potential merger between the local health system and any of its suitors.
Also on the agenda is a proposal by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to buy buildings and land owned by BRHS. In late June, the commissioners offered to buy the property for $4.8 million, which would enable BRHS to reimburse the county $1.57 million for its debt payment and provide the system with operating capital.
Dr. Rachel McCarter, vice chief of staff at Beaufort County Medical Center,. said the request for proposal, or RFP, does a good job of outlining “the uniqueness of the medical center” and its mission of serving Beaufort County and the surrounding area.
McCarter and other local doctors who have read the RFP have suggested some additions to it. McCarter said, she is confident that it will be ready for distribution after today’s meeting.
“It needs to go out,” she said. “We need to have time to look at the proposals when they come in and evaluate them carefully.”
Members of the health system’s board who were reached by the Daily News for comment about the document agreed.
They said they are prepared to have it distributed as soon as possible to those health-care providers that have said they want to receive it.
“I think we’re to the point that, with a few modifications, it can be sent out,” said board member Jack Piland in a recent interview.
He characterized the RFP as an “opening” move in a series of discussions with the 10 prospective partners that include Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina, the sole nonprofit system on the list and nine for-profit systems in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
Hood Richardson, a member of the health-system board and a county commissioner, said that once a few changes are made, the RFP should be ready for immediate distribution.
Board Chairman Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy also hopes the document can be approved for distribution to the system’s prospective partners after today’s meeting.
“I anticipate and hope that everybody’s had time to look at it,” he said. “And I hope they will be ready to send it out.”
The draft RFP was prepared by HealthCare Appraisers Inc., the Florida-based consultant guiding the local health system’s search for suitors. Its first 22 pages were recently released to the local news media by BRHS.
The RFP asks for two proposals. The first asks prospective partners to respond to a BRHS request for a 20-year lease that would begin Dec. 1, 2010. The second asks potential partners “to be creative. If you see an alternative way to accomplish our objectives in lieu of the preferred leasing structure, we invite you to propose your best ideas without restrictions.”
The RFP includes data on the BRHS operations, a list of requirements for prospective partners and about five pages of questions to determine how the prospective partner would address the needs of the local health system.
In addition to future construction needs, the RFP asks any suitor to meet nine basic requirements. These include providing quality care to all people in the community, regardless of their ability to pay, staying current with advancing medical technology, seeking to aggressively improve BRHS’s market share and providing a good work environment for health-system employees.
The RFP states that “an important consideration” in evaluating responses from potential partners will be their “commitment to understand and effectively address these matters.”
Other requirements for a prospective partner also listed in the RFP include the development of new services for the health system, implementation of a physician recruitment plan and retention of all health-system employees who are actively employed as of the closing date at their current salaries and a plan to transition benefits for those employees.
McCarter and others said that the hard work will begin when the health system receives responses to the RFP from interested suitors.